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Why You Should Treat Workplace Diversity Like a Box of Chocolates

Nilesh Makwana
Nilesh Makwana

The world is full of different people, cultures and skills, so why shouldn't your team be?

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, the hiring process is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you're going to get. But when resumes start coming in, business owners (or hiring managers) often stick to what they know and pick their favorites. They play it safe, knowing what they like and thinking that familiarity will tick all the boxes the same as it did before.

Speaking metaphorically, what if a Turkish delight could actually fit the role better than another Cadbury milk chocolate? What about that cherry cordial? You can't know what each has to offer, and you could miss out on the best person for the job if you never give them a try.

Unconscious bias stops us from trying that new chocolate type and has also been called out as one of the main factors inhibiting workplace diversity. Here are some of the strategies that businesses have explored to increase diversity in the workplace.

1. Quotas and targets

Just like a box of Cadbury Favorites, with its assortment of at least one of each chocolate type, organizations have implemented quotas and targets to promote workplace diversity. For example, Belgium introduced legislation for quotas and in 15 years increased the proportion of women in parliament from 16% in 1999 to over 41% in 2014.

The theory behind this tactic is that quotas in the corporate world can help put an end to the world's "boys club" networks that have existed for centuries.

2. Blind hiring

In the same way you might reach into a box of chocolates without looking, blind testing removes any personal identification details from prospective resumes. This includes removing the name, gender, home address, and even the year prospective candidates graduated or acquired qualifications from the resume. All that's left for the hiring manager to judge are the candidates' skills and work experience.

One New York City-based advertising company integrated anonymous testing into its hiring strategy. After implementing blind testing, the company's human resources department reported a 19% jump in the number of women hired and a 38% increase in the number of ethnically diverse candidates who came in for job interviews as a result.

3. Keeping an open mind

There are some people, myself included, who just want to give all the different chocolates in the box a go. My own medium-sized IT consultancy caters to pretty much every type of diversity. More than 50% of my workforce is women. My youngest employee is 18 years old, and my eldest is 67. My employees come from India, Malaysia, Russia, China, Norway, America, Australia and several other countries. Some of my team members are living with disability; we have an employee who is legally blind and another who has cerebral palsy.

This diversity has been key to the success of my business. It's helped us win a wide range of clients and allowed us to apply different problem-solving mindsets to our clients' unique challenges. Our experience isn't unique. Studies have found that decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better outcomes.

So, what's my secret to hiring a successful, diverse workforce? I haven't implemented any quotas or blind testing. I've just kept an open mind as I've gone through the hiring process and actively prioritized building a team of diverse thinkers.

Image Credit: Chidean Loredana/Shutterstock
Nilesh Makwana
Nilesh Makwana Member
I am the CEO and co-founder of IT consultancy Illuminance Solutions, which provides management solutions for businesses and nonprofits built on the Microsoft platform. Originally from India, I migrated to Australia with the hopes of combining my entrepreneurial mindset and technology skills to create a business that aligns with my passion to give back to the community. I now have a successful business with social impact at its core, providing tech solutions to a range of nonprofits, such as disability and aged care service providers, as well as member associations.